It’s no secret Jon Gruden loves his tight ends. In his offense Jared Cook is coming off a career year at the age of 31. The timing couldn’t be better for Cook as he could become a free agent in March.
Whether or not the Raiders will choose to cough up significant money for a tight end who will be 32 in April is one of the big questions for the Raiders as free agency approaches in March.
The 2019 tight end free agent class is not particularly strong if you are a team in the market. Jared Cook and Tyler Eifert will be atop the wish list for teams looking to upgrade at the position.
Should the Raiders decide to move on from Cook, they won’t find a better option in free agency so their best course of action would be to replace Cook through the draft.
Mel Kiper Jr sure thinks they will go that route. He has them selecting Alabam’s Irv Smith Jr with their pick at 27 overall.
There are actually three potential tight ends pegged as first round picks, one or more of whom is likely to be on the board when the Raiders select at 24 or 27 overall.
T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
Hockenson was college football’s 2019 John Mackey Award winner (most outstanding tight end). He ranked fourth in the nation among tight ends in receiving yardage with 760. Kiper has Hockenson coming off the board at 19 overall to the Titans.
Hockenson is viewed as more of a complete player compared to Fant and Smith Jr. due to his blocking abilities. When you combine his ideal size, strength, and speed you look for in the position along with his natural hands and ability you can see why teams view him as a first round talent.
Irv Smith Jr, Alabama
Irv Smith Jr. is an intriguing prospect because of his versatility. Throughout his career in Tuscaloosa, Smith lined up at tight end as well as H back. With Gruden’s infatuation for tight ends and fullbacks, Smith could suffice in a hybrid role.
Smith, like Fant is athletically gifted and should test well at the combine. In his final season at Alabama, Smith caught 44 balls for 710 yards (impressive 16.1 ypc) and 7 touchdowns. The knock on Smith’s game is his ability as a blocker.
Noah Fant, Iowa
Teammate of Hockenson, Fant is listed as the number one tight end in this years draft by several publications. He opted not to play in Iowa’s bowl game, finishing his career in black and gold with 78 catches for 1,082 yards, and 19 touchdowns.
Known for his freakish athleticism, Fant was named to the first team all-Big Ten. He should only see his stock rise after the combine, where he should be a standout within his position group.
The physical make up between Jared Cook and Noah Fant is eerily similar, though Fant may not have Cook’s long speed they both have the ability to stretch the field vertically.
Oddly, Kiper’s mock does not have Fant as being selected in the first round by any team. Should he or any of these tight ends slip out of the first round, the Raiders’ next pick is the third of the second round.
Should the Raiders take a tight end early in the draft?
This poll is closed
Yes, any of these guys would be a good pick
Yes, I like Irv Smith Jr
Yes, I like TJ Hockenson
Yes, I like Noah Fant
No, wait until the second round
No, not in the top 35, too many more important needs